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Board Game Gift Guide 2012




Welcome to BoardGameGeek! We are a worldwide community of folks who love board games. We've put our heads together to make a gift guide that covers all of your shopping needs this holiday season. There's a game on this page that's right for anyone on your list!

We believe that board games make the best gifts because they bring family and friends together for memorable experiences while providing hours and hours of entertainment. They also stimulate the brain and can teach useful skills.

There is a diverse variety of games on the market. Use the table of contents to jump to the category that best fits your loved ones. Games in each category are arranged from the simplest and least complex game to learn to the most strategic.

This is the seventh year we've put out a gift guide. Previous entries have usually been left out because they were no longer widely available.

Previous editions of the BGG Board Game Gift Guide: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006










All-Time Favorites

Our All-Time Favorite games are considered modern classics that are a great start for anyone's game closet. They'd make our Gamers Hall of Fame and are often the start to a life-long love of games.

mb Blokus
(All-Time Favorite)





Blokus might have the simplest rules of any game on the market. Put your pieces on the board, touching your other pieces, but only on the corners. Try to get all your pieces on that board. That's it! But you will forever be experimenting with new tricks and strategies to expand your territory while hemming in your opponents'. They've also come out with versions for specifically two-players, Blokus Duo, for youngsters, Blokus Junior, and for the square-adverse, Blokus Trigon with triangular pieces.

  • Players: 2 to 4 (especially good with: exactly 4)
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Ages: 8 and up (in our experience, 6 and up)
  • Availability: Target, Chapters/Indigo, local game stores, online
  • Price: $23-$30
  • Review by Mike Romigh and Video Review by Trent Howell

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mb Carcassonne
(All-Time Favorite)





Ever heard of a board game with no board? In Carcassonne, you and your fellow players actually build the board yourselves as you play the game, one high-quality cardboard tile at a time. By the time it's over, you'll have built such a pretty and unique arrangement of cities, roads, monasteries and fields that you may feel sad to put it away. Carcassonne is quite easy to learn with very quick and simple decisions to make with each turn. And with it's many expansions the base game can be made exponentially replayable. Consider these two expansions if you've already given the base game... Carcassonne: Traders & Builders & Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals.

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mb Ticket to Ride
(All-Time Favorite)





Ticket to Ride is a very popular game that has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. The game board is a map of the United States and Canada where the players compete to build train routes between major cities to score points. It's easy to learn, fast to play, works great for any number of players 2 to 5, and is almost always a big hit with people who are new to board games. For a European flare try Ticket to Ride: Europe.

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mb Settlers of Catan
(All-Time Favorite)





Settlers of Catan is one of the most popular board games in the world. Each player takes the role of a hardy settler on the uninhabited island of Catan. The island you settle yields five types of raw materials used to build roads, settlements, cities, and armies. However, the resources you've got aren't the resources you need. Trading with the other players is a big part of getting the right resources to build on the island. The player whose settlers are the most successful in colonizing the island wins the game.

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mb Pandemic
(All-Time Favorite)



2009 Golden Geek Award for Best Family Game




Four diseases have broken out in the world and it's up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures before mankind is wiped out. In this popular cooperative game you must work together with other players using your individual strengths and abilities to treat existing diseases and find cures before time runs out. Pandemic is your prescription for a great gaming experience like you've never had before! You can also add even more roles and more challenging diseases to the base game with Pandemic: On the Brink.

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mb Dominion
(All-Time Favorite)



2009 Golden Geek Awards for Game of the Year and Best Card Game




One of the most innovative and award winning games to emerge from the last couple of years! In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of 10 other cards the players can "buy" as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end. The base game includes 25 sets of center cards and allows for hundreds of variations. There has also been additional expansions released adding to the fun... Dominion Family










Games for All Ages

These games are accessible to a wide range of gamers because of simple rules and creative gameplay.

mb Pitchcar
(For all ages)





PitchCar is a dexterity game where large, wooden, puzzle-like pieces are used to construct a race track that looks very similar to a slot car track when finished. But instead of using electrons, players use finger-flicks to send little round pucks around the track. This is a crowd-pleasing game to play and watch that few can resist.

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mb Incan Gold
(For all ages)



2006 Golden Geek Award for Best Light/Party Game (Diamant, an older version of this game, won the award)




Enjoy exploring? Like to press your luck? Incan Gold is a quick, fun and tense game in which you and other adventurers explore an old Incan temple in search of gold and treasure. In each of the five rounds, you secretly choose if you want to continue exploring the temple in search of more treasure risking life and limb or retreat to the safety of your camp with your share of the treasure that has been discovered so far. Get too greedy, and you might lose all your hard-earned loot! Easy to learn and fun for young and old.

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mb Qwirkle
(For all ages)





Qwirkle should be instantly familiar to anyone who has played Scrabble. Think Scrabble with symbols and colors instead of words and without the board and you'll have a good idea of how this game plays. The excellent components and reasonable price makes this a particularly good gift. (Unfortunately not suitable for color-blind players.)

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mb King of Tokyo
(For all ages)


2012 Golden Geek Awards for Best Children's Game, Best Party Game, and Best Family Game





In King of Tokyo, you play mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and aliens vying for the ultimate title in monsterdom, "King of Tokyo". Each turn you get a Yahtzee style three rolls of a set of 6 dice.

You decide with each roll which dice to keep and which to throw for more points, energy, health, or hits to your opponents. In order to win you must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 destruction points or out last your fellow monsters in a bout to death.

This light-hearted, quick to learn, and quick to play game has you laughing with each roll and accomodates a whole family of players.

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mb Forbidden Island
(For all ages)



2010 Golden Geek Award for Best Children's Game




Forbidden Island is a cooperative game - but don't think this means that it's boring or easy! Competition to beat this award-winning game can be tough, and you either win together or lose together! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of the perilous paradise of Forbidden Island. Work together as a team as the island begins to sink beneath every step! Expect lots of tension as you race to collect the treasures, and make a triumphant escape - or be swallowed into the watery abyss!











Games for Teenagers and Adults

These games provide more of a challenge but also a more rewarding experience. Scarce resources and a chance to conquer your opponent dominate this field and often appeal to more aggressive gamers.

mb Stone Age
(For teens & adults)





Players struggle to survive the Stone Age by working as hunters, gatherers, farmers, and tool makers. The central theme of the game revolves around choosing which of these roles your tribe members should perform each turn. As you gather and spend resources, you can buy developments that will allow your tribe to survive and outshine those of your opponents. Be careful though. At the end of each round players must have enough food available to feed their tribe, or face losing resources or points.

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mb Small World
(For teens & adults)





In Small World, players vie for conquest and control of a world that is simply too small to accommodate them all. Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans, who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth. Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires - often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline so they can pick a new one and ride it to victory!

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mb Alien Frontiers
(For teens & adults)





Do you have what it takes to be a deep space colonist? An alien frontier awaits the brave and daring! This new planet will be harsh, but if you have the skills to manage your resources, build a fleet, research alien life, and settle colonies, the world can be yours.

Roll and place your dice to gain advantages over your opponent and block them out of useful areas of the board. Use Alien Tech cards to manipulate your dice rolls and territory bonuses to break the rules. Steal resources, overtake territories, and do whatever it takes to get your colonies on the map first! Don't dream it'll be easy, though, because the other players will be trying to do the same thing.

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mb Risk Legacy
(For teens & adults)



2012 Golden Geek Award for Most Innovative Game




Remember Risk, the simple game of world domination where you build armies, roll dice and crush your enemies? This is Risk as you've never seen it before. Literally, because you make permanent changes to the board and the rules at the end of every game depending on how it unfolds. This unique idea means that the game grows along with you, and that your actions have much bigger impact beyond a single play session -- they mark your game for life! What kind of legacy will you leave?

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mb Lords of Waterdeep
(For teens & adults)





In Lords of Waterdeep you take on the role of one of the masked Lords of Waterdeep, secret rulers of the city. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city. Expand the city by purchasing new buildings that open up new actions on the board, and hinder – or help – the other lords by playing Intrigue cards to enact your carefully laid plans.

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mb 7 Wonders
(For teens & adults)


2011 Golden Geek Awards for Best Family Game & Best Card Game





7 Wonders takes the mechanic of card drafting and makes THAT the game. Each player at the start of three ages begins with a hand of 7 cards. Everyone simultaniously chooses a card to build then passes the hand on until 6 of the 7 cards from the original hands are built. The beauty of the game is that because everyone is working at the same time, making often interesting and tough decisions, the game lasts the same length whether you play with 2 or up to 7 players. The result after 3 short ages is that you've built up a substantial civilization and with many ways to score you never know if you've been out built until the very end.










Family Games for Older Children

Family games should be fun for both kids and parents. This set of games require just a little more thought than your standard family games but provide adventure and a sense of accomplishment without the aggressive approach.

mb Ingenious
(For older children)


2006 Golden Geek Award for Best Family Game





Winner of multiple boardgame awards from one of the hobby's best known designers, Ingenious is a fun, colorful tile-laying game. Each tile has two colorful symbols on it. Each turn, players place one tile down on the hexagonal board and score points for each identical symbol in the rows emanating from each symbol. Players can build off of others' previously laid tiles to score a large number of points in one turn. However, in an unusual twist, players at the end of the game are scored on which of the six symbols they've scored the fewest points for. The rules are easy and well illustrated, but the game itself is both elegant and challenging.

Alternatively Ingenious: Travel Edition would make a great 2-player stocking stuffer!

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mb Escape: The Curse of the Temple
(For older children)





Escape is a new co-operative game played in real-time directed by a sound track. With all players rolling dice and taking actions simultaneously you have to keep your eye on your teammates and work together to explore a cursed temple. As you roll, you explore new rooms of the temple and sometimes find treasure and other times get cursed and held up. The simultaneous action and tension building time element create a fun challenge that will have you hanging on every die roll. If you're up for the challenge of a real adventure consider picking this one up.

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mb Castle Panic
(For older children)





This is an exciting game that's proven to be a favorite with many children and families. Together with your friends, you must work as a team to defend your castle against the horde of monsters that emerge from the forest and threaten to tear down your walls and destroy your castle towers. It's win or lose ... together!

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mb Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
(For older children)





Survive is a cutthroat game where players seek to evacuate their pieces from an island that is breaking up, while remembering where their highest-valued pieces are located to maximize their score.

An island made up of 40 hex-tiles is slowly sinking into the ocean (as the tiles are removed from the board). Each player controls ten people (valued from 1 to 6) that they try and move towards the safety of the surrounding islands before the main island finally blows up. Players can either swim or use boats to travel but must avoid sea serpents, whales and sharks on their way to safety.

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mb Zooloretto
(For older children)



2007 Golden Geek Awards for Best Family Game & Best Children's Game




Zooloretto won multiple awards for best family game of the year in 2007, and it is easy to see why. Each player uses a variety of wild and exotic animals and their young to try to attract as many visitors as possible to their zoo. But be careful - the zoo must be carefully planned. Before you know it, you have too many animals and no more room for them. The simple rules and appealing theme makes this game a winner with gamers of all ages!










Family Games for Younger Children

These games are accessible to the youngsters but still provide enough challenge to keep the parents interested! You may also wish to check the Games by player age wiki page.

mb Animal Upon Animal
(For younger children)





Animal Upon Animal is a fun stacking game that can be enjoyed by adults as well as by children as young as 4 (the game has some small wooden parts and it requires some fine motor skills which might be hard for younger children.) The players construct animal towers using cute wooden animals thus getting rid of all their animals. A die determines if you can attempt to stack 1-2 of your animals, pass one of your animals to another player or have to let another player choose which animal to stack. If you knock over the pile, you have to take 1-2 animals back into your hand and keep playing. First one to use all of their animals wins!

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mb Loopin' Louie
(For younger children)






In Loopin' Louie, a battery-powered motor placed in the center of the table rotates a boom with a little plastic plane. Four radial arms lead out to the players' barns and the chickens they're trying to protect. Each player's barn has a little lever, which is used to knock the rotating plane away from your chickens and hopefully into someone else's. When only one player has chickens remaining, he or she wins the game. Very silly and very addictive. This is a the type of game that can be played with giggling little ones, competitive teens, and fun loving adults.

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mb Go Away Monster!
(For younger children)





Being afraid of monsters is a normal part of growing up. Go Away Monster! encourages kids to conquer that fear by acting it out and taking control. This game teaches how to take turns without being overly competitive. As a plus, this game has nice replay value for many young children. A good game for ages 3 and up (works well in the 2-3 age group as well) that doesn't last so long that parents become bored.

  • Players: 1 to 4
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Ages: 3 and up
  • Availability: Wal*Mart, Target, Online
  • Price: $8-$15
  • Review by Jim Van Verth

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mb Chicken Cha Cha Cha
(For younger children)





A memory game for children 4 and up. You must steal the feathers of other chickens in order to win. When you find the face down tile showing the same drawing as the one in front of your chicken-pawn, you can move forward.

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mb Labyrinth
(For younger children)





This game is a-MAZE-ing! Literally! A moving maze, and who doesn't love mazes? Even younger children will be able to begin figuring out how to slide the tiles and make paths. But best of all, adults will find this game challenging and fun too. The Amazing Labyrinth has the potential to be enjoyed by people of all ages, young and old.











Party Games

These party games are fun, light games designed to be played by a boisterous group.

mb Dixit Odyssey
(Party game)



2011 Golden Geek Award for Best Party Game




Dixit Odyssey is both a standalone game and an expansion for Jean-Louis Roubira's Dixit, which won Germany's Spiel des Jahres award in 2010.

Game play in Dixit Odyssey matches that of Dixit: Each turn one player is the storyteller. This player secretly chooses one card in his hand, then gives a word or sentence to describe this card – but not too obviously. Each other player chooses a card in hand that matches this word/sentence and gives it to the storyteller. The storyteller then lays out the cards, and all other players vote on which card belongs to the storyteller. If no one or everyone guesses the storyteller's card, the storyteller receives no points and all players receive two; otherwise the storyteller and the correct guesser(s) each receive three points. Players score one point for each vote their image receives. Players refill their hands, and the next player becomes the storyteller. When the deck runs out, the player with the most points wins.

Dixit Odyssey contains 84 new cards, each with a unique image drawn by Pierô and colored by Marie Cardouat, artist of Dixit and Dixit 2. It also includes a folding game board, new rabbit scoring tokens, and a box large enough to hold all the Dixit cards released to date.

Dixit Odyssey includes enough components for up to twelve players and also has variant rules for team play and for new ways to play with the cards.

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mb Telestrations
(Party game)



2010 Golden Geek Award for Best Party Game




In this award winning party game, players sketch a word that's dictated by the roll of a die, then pass their sketch on to the next player to guess what's been drawn. That player then writes down what they think the word is, for the next player to draw a sketch of. Remember the classic game of Chinese Whispers? This is like that, but with pictures, and it's proven to be very popular and lots of fun!

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mb Say Anything
(Party game)



2008 Golden Geek Award for Best Party Game




Say Anything is a light-hearted and award-winning game about what you and your friends think. It gives you the chance to settle questions that have been hotly debated for centuries. For instance, "What is the most overrated band of all time?" or "Which celebrity would be the most fun to hang out with for a day?" So dig deep into your heart or just come up with something witty - this is your chance to Say Anything!

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mb Time's Up!
(Party game)



2009 Golden Geek Award for Best Party Game (Deluxe version)




Time's Up! is a party game for teams of two or more players (best with teams of two). In each round, one member of a team tries to get his teammates to guess as many names as possible in 30 seconds. It gets progressively harder as there are no communication restrictions in the first round, only 1 word can be used by the describer in the second round, and no words may be used for the last round. But in the easier direction, the same set of famous names is used for each round, so memory and creative descriptions play a huge part in the later rounds. This is one of the most popular party games, and a definite fit for Catchphrase, Taboo and Charades lovers! Other available editions include: Time's Up! Title Recall! and Time's Up! Deluxe.

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mb Wits & Wagers
(Party game)


2007 Golden Geek Award for Best Party Game





Take everything you know about trivia games and throw it out. Wits and Wagers is a trivia game that you can win without ever knowing a single correct answer! In this game, every team gets to submit a guess for every question, then use their poker chips (included) to place bets on the answers they think are closest. Rely on your own knowledge, or just bet on which of your friends you think knows the most -- but wait, are they bluffing? Bring out the excitement of a Vegas-style casino in your own home, and don't leave anyone feeling left out of the fun. Other available editions include: Wits & Wagers Family and Wits & Wagers Party.

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mb The Resistance
(Party game)





The Empire must fall. Our mission must succeed. By destroying their key bases, we will shatter Imperial strength and liberate our people. Yet spies have infiltrated our ranks, ready for sabotage. We must unmask them. In five nights we reshape destiny or die trying. We are the Resistance!

The Resistance is a party game of social deduction. It is designed for five to ten players, lasts about 30 minutes, and has no player elimination. The Resistance is inspired by Mafia/Werewolf, yet it is unique in its core mechanics which allow for more informed decisions, wilder player interaction, and no player elimination.

Players are either Resistance Operatives or Imperial Spies. For three to five rounds, they must depend on each other to carry out missions against the Empire. At the same time, they must try to deduce the other players’ identities and gain their trust. Each round begins with discussion. When ready, the Leader entrusts sets of Plans to a certain number of players (possibly including himself/herself). Everyone votes on whether or not to approve the assignment. Once an assignment passes, the chosen players secretly decide to Support or Sabotage the mission. Based on the results, the mission succeeds (Resistance win) or fails (Empire win). When a team wins three missions, they have won the game. If you're a Resistance Operative, expose the Spies as soon as you can; if you're an Imperial Spy, lie and think quickly to sow distrust and confusion -- either way, loud accusations and laughter are guaranteed as deceit and betrayals slowly come to light!











Two Player Games

Great for couples or fillers waiting for additional players.

mb Lost Cities
(For two players)





Even those who think they have tried everything will have to admit that Lost Cities is an exciting, unusual two-player card game. It's quick, it's simple, it's tense, and it's addictive! The play is simple: You put down numbered cards in sequence on one of five "expeditions." But once you start an expedition, you must keep adding cards to it - or else risk losing more points than you gain! All the while, your opponent may be holding onto the card you want, trying to build up his or her own expeditions. In Lost Cities, the finish is usually so tense that you'll want to play just one more game ... and another!

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mb Jaipur
(For two players)





Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. You are one of the two most powerful traders in the city. But that's not enough for you, because only the merchant with two Seals of Excellence will have the privilege of being invited to the Maharaja's court. You are therefore going to have to do better than your direct competitor by buying, exchanging and selling at better prices, all while keeping an eye on both your camel herds. Jaipur is a fast-paced card game, a blend of tactics, risk and luck.

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mb Hive
(For two players)







Looking for a quick strategic game? You've come to the right place with Hive! In this highly addictive game, the board takes shape as you and your opponent lay down your pieces. Each player controls an identical army of bugs, each with its own unique movement. Can you place and move your pieces so that you surround your opponent's queen bee before he surrounds yours?

Hive comes in three versions: 1. Hive (original) 2. Hive: Carbon (monochromatic) and 3. Hive: Pocket (35% smaller). Both Hive: Carbon and Hive: Pocket include the Mosquito and Lady Bug expansion bugs.

Hive: Pocket's size makes this version a great 2-player stocking stuffer!

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mb Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
(For two players)





Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is a tactical ship-to-ship combat game in which players take control of powerful Rebel X-Wings and nimble Imperial TIE fighters, facing them against each other in fast-paced space combat. Featuring stunningly detailed and painted miniatures, the X-Wing Miniatures Game recreates exciting Star Wars space combat throughout its several included scenarios. Select your crew, plan your maneuvers, and complete your mission!

Even though this is listed as a 2-player game. With additional sets of the starter pack or even with some expansions you can quickly add players to the fight. Look for these additonal expansions... Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game Family

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mb Mr Jack
(For two players)





Mr. Jack is a quick deduction game for two loosely based on the investigation surrounding Jack the Ripper. One player represents Mr. Jack, who is masquerading as one of the characters on the board. The other player is the Investigator, who must discover who Jack is impersonating before the criminal escapes under the cover of night. Will Mr. Jack escape or will the Inspector arrest him before daybreak? Wits, logic, and bluffing will all determine the answer to that question.

Also, consider Mr. Jack Pocket. An adapted game in a smaller size.

Another great 2-player stocking stuffer!

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mb Summoner Wars: Master Set
(For two players)





Summoner Wars is a fast-playing, action-packed game for 2 players in which they take on the role of Summoners: powerful beings who harness the power of mysterious Summoning Stones to lead their race to conquest on the war-torn planet of Itharia. These Summoners wield terrible magic on the battlefield, freezing their foes in place, draining their enemies of power, and even bringing rains of fire down from the heavens. But most notoriously, they summon their great race's hordes of warriors to the battlefield, to clash in the never-ending struggle for supremacy. A Summoner is both mage and general, and must combine their wizardly might with clever tactics to defeat the enemy Summoner on the opposite side of the battle.

The units you summon and command as Summoner are represented by decks of detailed cards on the battlefield. Each deck brings uniqueness to units and factions, allowing for repeated play as you pit different factions against each other. The Master Set comes with 6 of these factions and there are several expansions to add to your pool...Summoner Wars Family




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Stocking Stuffers

Small, inexpensive, and well worth your time.

mb Zombie Dice
(Stocking stuffer)




 

Eat brains. Don't get shotgunned.

Zombie Dice is fast and easy for any zombie fan to learn, even non-gamers. The 13 custom dice are your victims. Push your luck to eat their brains, but stop rolling before the shotgun blasts end your turn!

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mb Coloretto
(Stocking stuffer)





Very simple rules, easy to learn and teach - in this game the aim is to collect large numbers of matching colored cards without having too many different sets of colors. Push your luck, collect sets - this is a tense and fun game that has proven very popular!

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mb Hey! That's My Fish!
(Stocking stuffer)





A cute but strategic game in which each player tries to have his or her penguins eat the most fish. It is easily adaptable for children as young as four but can be fun for people of any age -- even adults (really!). Who can resist penguins hopping across ice floes?

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mb Monopoly Deal Card Game
(Stocking stuffer)





The fast-paced, addictive card game where your luck can change in the play of a card! Collect 3 complete property sets, but beware Debt Collectors, Forced Deals and the dreaded Deal Breakers, which could change your fortunes at any time!

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mb For Sale
(Stocking stuffer)





For Sale is a quick, fun game nominally about buying and selling real estate. During the game's two distinct phases, players first bid for several buildings then, after all buildings have been bought, sell the buildings for the greatest profit possible.

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mb Bohnanza
(Stocking stuffer)





As card games go, this one is quite revolutionary. Perhaps its oddest feature is that you cannot rearrange your hand, as you need to play the cards in the order that you draw them. The cards are colorful depictions of beans in various descriptive poses, and the object is to make coins by planting fields (sets) of these beans and then harvesting them. To help players match their cards up, the game features extensive trading and deal making.




Other resources

Where to Buy?

Many of these games can be found at your local specialty game store. You can look for a local specialty game store using the Days of Wonder Store Locator or BGG advice in the FLGS of the World (Friendly Local Game Store) thread.

If you don't have a store near you, or they don't carry the game you're looking for, you can buy online. Some online retailers in the US that we've had good experiences with are:

Canada: 2012 online Canadian retailer list
Australia: 2009 online Australian retailer list

For others, including many outside the USA, see our full list of online vendors.

Other Game Gift Guides

In addition to this guide, several other gift guides exist:

Recent 2012 and older


2011 and older

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